A Global Resource for Nurses: Work Team Empowerment

Monday, 9 November 2015

Christina Leibold Sieloff, PhD, RN, CNA, BC
College of Nursing, Montana State University - Bozeman, Billings, MT, USA
Mary Louanne Friend, PhD, MN, BSN, RN
Course Leader 5th semester: Undergraduate Program, Capstone College of Nursing, Tuscaloosa, AL, USA

The purpose of this presentation is to review the current status of empowerment research in health care with a focus for identifying strategies that nursing work teams can implement to further improve their workplace empowerment. The target audience for this presentation is any nurse, who functions as a member of a work team, within any practice setting and any location globally.

Empowerment is a perspective with global implications for nurses in all practice settings. In terms of the health care environment, the literature has identified there are many benefits that result from empowerment within the work place. These include: increased satisfaction, increased retention, etc. The empirical literature supports the relationship between structural and psychological empowerment to: 1) job satisfaction, and the 2) Magnet hospital characteristics of autonomy, control over practice environment and positive nurse-physician relationships.

Research also suggests that team membership and power are associated with student empowerment. The ability to empower nursing students as teams may enable them to create transformative, collaborative working environments globally.

However, there are two aspects of the current literature that are problematic when attempting to assist healthcare work teams to fully benefit from work team empowerment. First, the majority of health systems research is focused on the empowerment of individuals rather than work teams. This perspective is problematic as it conflicts with the fact that nurses routinely practice as members of healthcare work teams, regardless of their practice setting or global location.  An additional problem is presented by research that originates from a paternalistic view of empowerment where the work team’s empowerment depends upon either the environment or other individuals within that environment rather than on the efforts of the work team.

In this presentation, a view of empowerment will be presented that focuses on 1) practical empowering nursing work team strategies that 2) use established mechanisms in innovative combinations to assist nursing work teams to enhance their forward thinking skills, particularly in terms of addressing environmental forces that effect health care. The Sieloff-King theory of work team empowerment within organizations, and the related instrument (Sieloff-King Assessment of Group Empowerment within Organizations) focuses on: 1) healthcare work teams, and 2) the team’s ability to autonomously empower themselves. This theory has demonstrated its global applicability through research in a variety of practice environments and global (Finland, Israel, Korea, United States). This theory and the reliable and valid instrument provides all nursing work teams with practical and innovative strategies

Through the use of the reliable and valid instrument, any nursing work team should be able to both assess and further improve its level of empowerment. The ability to achieve transformative nursing practice, and enhance nursing teams’ talents in a variety of professional situations, depends upon individuals who believe empowerment is an active process as opposed to a passive process that leaders perform for their followers. Likewise, team empowerment supports group cohesiveness that has also been correlated to nurse retention and increased satisfaction.

Over the past 40 years, nursing has been described in the literature as behaving as an oppressed group. The time for forward thinking is now where nurses believe they are responsible for their own ability to achieve goals and to empower themselves and their work teams. Quality nursing education, practice and research to support transformative nursing practice and safe and quality patient outcomes depends upon effective, empowered, nurse work teams.